Friday, April 20, 2012

Blogspot #5 April 18, 2012
We arrive during the gray, messy time of late winter. Last year’s dried weeds and strewn garbage is a scene of despair. A few weeks later spring has changed the landscape to fresh shades of green. Blooming daffodils, hyacinths, crocuses, tulips and the blossoms of the various fruit trees lift our spirits and give us hope. It seems that the resurrection is enacted before our eyes!

Garbage disposal is a despairing issue in Ukraine. There is litter along highways and in public places. For some reason, vacant lots become garbage dumps! However, when Easter approaches, people begin to clean up. Children are seen carrying rakes and brooms to school to participate in a work day. Schoolyards are generally tidy and some private yards are meticulous. Several tenants from our apartment worked together for a whole afternoon, cleaning the empty lot in front of the building, gathering garbage, raking, loading branches and old bricks onto a truck. A young friend of ours who has done a practicum in Germany tells us how he gets after his friends who litter, insisting that they have to clean it up!

According to news media and talk on the streets, corruption in this country is staggering, reaching into all levels of society.  Has this country not suffered hard and long enough? How we all need to pray for this country! However, the local mayor has said that he is planning to overhaul the water system in Molochansk. We hope for this, because the citizens are often without running water due to breaks in the water pipes. A Ukrainian friend tells us she is still hopeful for Ukraine, claiming that the younger generation will not put up with corruption in the long run.

The quality of education in the schools varies. Changes do not come easily. One new principal demands performance from her staff. She has given demonstrations as to how to teach and encourage students. We were invited to observe one of her classes and were impressed by her example.

Common scenes in the town reveal the extent of alcohol abuse:
An inebriated middle aged woman on all fours on the sidewalk, struggling to stand u
p straight; youths walking along the street with open bottles of liquor; a man sleeping off a drunken stupor lying beside the path behind our apartment. In contrast, we observe the youth at the Centre becoming involved in a computer club or history exploration group. These meetings are followed by a snack and games of Dutch Blitz or table tennis. A large youth group attends the local Mennonite Church services regularly, assists with the children’s activities , and enjoys weekly floor hockey matches in the school gym. Many more families with young children have become involved in the church. Classes in the sports, music, and craft schools provide opportunities f or wholesome activities.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Blogspot # 4

April 10, 2012

Two of the many projects we are currently working on are due to the generosity of children in Canada. How wonderful when the younger generation demonstrates compassion for the less fortunate!

A young girl by the name of Rebecca decided that the guests at her birthday party should bring a donation for a charity instead of a gift for her personally. She raised $200 for the students in the Sanitorium School in Molochansk, who need sports equipment. For her donation the Mennonite Centre purchased a ping- pong table with the necessary accessories. The staff and the students were very pleased to receive such a gift, which will provide many hours of healthful activity for the children, some of whom are there from 3 months to a year. Thank-you, Rebecca!

A group of Sunday School students from Altona Mennonite Church raised money for a library in a Mennonite Church in a Ukraine village. Children in Canada have always had easy access to Christian books for all ages, but in a country where Bibles and related literature were outlawed for generations, Christian books are still uncommon, especially in the villages. The money that was raised is being used for books, SS curriculum, magazine subscriptions, craft supplies, and DVDs. The Sunday School is continuing to raise money to support the Christian day camps that the church will organize in the summer. A big Thank-you goes out to the Altona Mennonite Church Sunday School!

We have also been impressed by the huge generosity of 6 men who travelled about 42 hours from Germany to volunteer at the building site of the new Mennonite Church in Molochansk. They are giving up their holiday time to dig trenches and pour the cement for the foundation, clean up trash and scrubby undergrowth, and build a fence. They are doing this out of their desire to serve God and their fellowman. We have been impressed by the spirit of faith in which this project has been undertaken by these volunteers as well as the local church. Doing such a project without excavating machinery, cement trucks having to travel almost 2 hours from Zaporoshiya, and neighbors continuing to dispose of their garbage on the building site (because they had always thrown it on this empty lot until now), are challenges that boggle our western mindsets. The energy and commitment of these young men has been exemplary and an encouragement and inspiration for the local church. We had the privilege of hosting 2 of them in our apartment.